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Drum pads are highly versatile instruments that can be used to either extend your current setup or as a standalone instrument. For the most part, they are used by drummers for honing their skills in a quieter setting. Practicing is a huge part of every drummer’s routine, as it allows you to refine your talent, as well as better understand the craft itself.
Squeezing in those practice sessions can be a dilemma for drummers, though, since you are dealing with one of the biggest and loudest acoustic instruments out there. Fortunately, drum pads can help you take your skills to the next level — without having to worry about booking studio time, noise issues, and similar impediments. That being said, a drum pad doesn’t need to be expensive, especially if you’re only looking to practice with it.
There is a common misconception among many people that drum pads are meant for drummers only, which simply isn’t true. With electronic drum pads, anyone with a basic understanding of drums can quickly whip up a beat in just a few minutes, without having to depend on a real kit.
If you are a drummer and haven’t tried out drum pads yet, then you’re missing out big time. Our goal with this guide is to equip you with all the necessary information you need before you head out to your local music store to buy new drum pads. Although high-end drum pads can come with a hefty price tag, you can easily get your hands on a beginner set that is good for both creating beats and practicing.
Why Do You Need Drum Pads?
You have two options when it comes to drum pads:
- Practice drum pads: Mainly designed for practicing, as their name implies
- Electronic drum pads: Can extend your sound vocabulary, both live and in the studio
Practice drum pads are usually made using a mylar disk or a rubber pad, with a rebound design that mimics the feel of a real drum head. In some cases, mesh pads are also used to deliver a more realistic feel, but they sound quieter compared to rubber or mylar pads.
Virtually every drummer can benefit from practice pads, regardless of their level of proficiency. They are especially good for occasions when you don’t have access to a real kit or want to refrain from disturbing your neighbors while practicing. You are also able to hear the sound more accurately, as pads are quieter than real drum heads, which is a huge plus.
The first electronic drum pad was created by Graeme Edge (drummer of The Moody Blues) in the early 1970s, in collaboration with Sussex University Professor Brian Groves. Pollard Syndrum was the first commercially available electronic drum set, which included an electronic sound generator and one drum pad. Since then, the overall design and composition of materials have been revamped to suit the needs of drummers better.
Major Differences Between Practice Drum Pads and Electronic Drum Pads
The goals behind creating practice drum pads and electronic drum pads vary, leading to certain differences in their design and sound. Here are some of the most notable differences between practice drum pads and electronic drum pads that you should be aware of:
- Practice drum pads are made to replicate the feel and sound of a real drum head, whereas electronic drums are essentially a synthesizer designed to run programmed drum loops and soundbanks.
- Practice drum pads are typically made from rubber or mylar, whereas electronic drums pads are either discs or shallow drum shells with a rubber or silicone coated playing surface that gives some feedback to sticks.
- Practice drum pads are a great way to get accustomed to acoustic drums and their feel, whereas electronic drums are perfect if you are playing electronic music that requires MIDI samples.
- With mesh practice drum pads, you’ll need to have basic knowledge of drum maintenance (like tuning the head), whereas electronic kits spare you that trouble since you are playing with internally generated sounds.
How We Chose Our Selection Of Drum Pads
We spent a ton of time meticulously reviewing some of the most popular drum pads on the market while also working on a list of what we believe are the best drum pads available. Some of the factors that we kept in mind during this process were:
- Drum heads. Drum pads usually come in two types: rubber and mesh. Rubber pads are relatively cheaper, offering an inferior sound quality to mesh pads and lasting longer. Mesh pads add authentic sound and realistic feedback to your playing, which feels more organic than rubber pads.
- Drum modules. Drum modules are the processing centers of an electronic drum kit. If you’re planning on working with high-quality samples and effects, consider getting a powerful enough drum module in order to avoid running into throttling issues.
- Sound quality. Gauging the sound quality of a drum pad may not come as easy to beginners as it does to professionals who have spent years training their ears. Because of this, we paid close attention to the sound quality of all the drum pads on our list.
- Cost. Cost certainly dictates a lot of features and the sound quality you may get with a drum pad. We also understand that every drummer doesn’t necessarily have the resources to buy an acoustic kit or a high-end electronic drum set, either, which is why we have included some budget-friendly options that are great for both beginners and professional drummers.
- Design. A solid-body drum pad can produce more authentic sounds and overtones compared to a flat drum training pad. This is an important consideration, especially if you’re looking to gain more control over your practice environment.
What Are the Best Drum Pads in 2022?
Roland has a long history of producing some of the best performing drum pads and percussion pads out there. They have a clear understanding of the most beneficial features for drummers and have gained extensive experience over the years by listening to feedback from the drumming community.
This Roland SPD-SX boasts a powerful drum module, and its user interface is known to be quite user-friendly for beginners. If you’re looking for a top-notch response and sound quality, then the latest addition to Roland’s line-up of multi-pads won’t disappoint you.
- Has one of the most powerful drum modules in the market, which can run three simultaneous multi-FXes
- Provides over three hours of sampling time, sixteen internal drum kits, and 4Gb of internal memory
- Can upgrade to the red version of the SPD-SX, which adds 16Gb of internal memory
- Comes with nine highly responsive and velocity-sensitive trigger pads, extending your collection of dynamic sound libraries
- Ease of navigating the user interface, settings, and programs, thanks to its backlit LED screen
- Includes two analog ¼” inputs and a separate MIDI I/O port for external sampling
- Helpful click feature allows you to hear it without sending it to the front of the house
- Smooth transition between various samples
- Helpful indicators for engaged pads
- Kit chaining allows you to store your favorite kits in your preferred order
- No expandable memory slot
- Some users reviews mention the pad being rigid
Alesis finally added a solid product to their line-up of multi-pads by overcoming a fair amount of issues associated with their previous models. This gets rid of the common complaints regarding their older models of pads, which had a tendency to feel a bit too stiff and often struggled with detecting the intensity of strikes.
The Alesis Strike multipad is a great choice for gigging musicians and session drummers. In addition, it comes with an onboard sampler and tons of power in the processing unit, further highlighting its value.
- Nine velocity-sensitive trigger pads
- Access to 6Gbs of stock sample library and 32Gb of onboard memory for storing presets and samples
- Can act as a standalone sampler or a USB/MIDI interface to let you capture performances with your DAW
- Ability to load your files over a USB drive and import your set files (as well as other sound libraries) in seconds
- Raised backpads for easy access
- Comes with Ableton Live Lite included, allowing you to start working on your music right away
- Trigger inputs 2 x 1/4″ (dual-zone), 1 x 1/4″ (single-zone), 1 x 1/4″ (hi-hat)
- Pads are soft but not overly sensitive
- One of the best multi-color displays in the market, making navigation a breeze
- Lighting underneath the pads very helpful, especially in dark conditions
- Huge internal storage capacity
- Metronome doesn’t start immediately clicking the button
- Larger sample load times compared to other devices in the same range
- Some buttons are harder to press
If you prefer working on your hits and your foot technique at the same time, then consider the Drum Workshop’s Go Anywhere Practice Pad set. These kits can take your practice sessions to the next level, as they are essentially a full drum kit made from practice pads.
The DW Go Anywhere Drum Pad Set is highly versatile, very adjustable, and has great build quality. This incredibly portable drum pad practice kit can be set up in a small space and folded away within minutes when you are done practicing. You can also extend the kit by adding extra drum pads, too.
- 24x10x10-inch dimensions and a weight of 19.5 pounds
- Two 8-inch pads for tom and cymbal
- Two 10-inch pads for snare and floor tom
- One kick drum pad (bass pedal not included with the kit)
- Extension ports for adding more drum pads
- Rubber pads have a realistic response and friction
- Takes less floor space
- Has an attachment for a single or double bass pedal
- Frequent setting up and taking apart of the kit can wear out its clamps
- Unrealistic positioning of the pads compared to real drum kits
If you’re looking to spice up your practice sessions with a touch of technology, then you have to give the Roland Rhythm Coach a shot. This fantastic practice pad comes with a lot of built-in tools that help you improve your speed, accuracy, and accents while practicing.
This Roland Rhythm Coach is built for drummers who like to challenge themselves while practicing their skills. The in-built metronome comes with a quiet mode and can be programmed to speed up or slow down in specific time intervals. You can even attach a bass drum and a cymbal pad to extend your kit, which is a huge plus. In our opinion, these fantastic features of the Roland Rhythm coach stood out the most.
- 13.7×10.35×3.07-inch dimensions and a weight of 8.25 pounds
- Built-in metronome and training function
- Tension-adjustable 12-inch mesh drum head
- Powerful drum module with hundreds of sound effects and instruments
- Live mode that focuses on the parameters of your performance
- Headphone output for quiet practice sessions
- Easily attached to standard marching carriers and snare stands
- Trigger input jack (1/4-inch TRS phone type) and output jack (1/4-inch phone type)
- Lightweight and very durable
- Onboard rhythm coach
- High-quality presets include toms, bass drums, marching snares, and cymbals
- Is slightly expensive
- Clamps on the main stand can wear out over time
The Yamaha DTX Multi 12 is the first sampling pad from Yamaha, and we have to admit, they nailed it in the first go. With thousands of sound effects and drum kits available at the touch of a finger, you are not going to run out of creative ideas anytime soon.
Whatever your style or setup, the DTX-multi 12 seamlessly aligns with other instruments and extends the capabilities of your rig. You can even playback imported WAV and AIFF files, which can make those sweaty practice sessions enjoyable and productive at the same time. This is a one-of-a-kind percussion controller that comes with a sequencer that, for once, doesn’t suffer from the flaws of other sequencer models in the market.
- 1,200+ voices from various global drum kits, plus 42 built-in effects (including chorus and reverb)
- Includes twelve ergonomically designed pads
- Comes with five aux trigger inputs
- Has separate input for kick and hi-hat pedals
- Acts as a USB/MIDI audio interface
- The playback feature lets you jam out to your favorite tunes while playing
- The built-in sequencer supports 152,000 notes
- Click track with tap tempo for effective practice
- Comes with Cubase AI5 DAW
- Excellent build quality
- iOS touch app for added customization
- Super response from the pads
- The sampler has little to no use
- Lacking enough internal memory
Last but not least, we have the Movement Drums Practice pad, a quality drum pad featuring two sides and four different playing surfaces. It comes with a full rim to emulate a marching snare drum, which was a pleasant surprise for us.
Right out of the box, this practice pad came with the pad itself, a rubber insert, and a clear plastic insert. The rubber insert fits evenly on the pad, and the overall feel of the drum pad was very close to that of a real drum (like a tom). You can use the plastic insert to get that crisp attack and edgy sound, which is mainly associated with marching snare drums.
- Includes a 12-inch drum head
- 12x12x1.5-inch dimensions and a weight of 4.1 pounds
- Comes with a silicone rubber pad, which resembles a snare drum
- The bottom surface features a quieter feel for practicing and improving muscle development
- Comes with two inserts: rubber and clear plastic
- Two-sided drum pad with additional inserts
- Comfortable size for practicing long hours
- Clear plastic rim lets you practice rim shots and clicks
- Slightly more expensive than other models
- Somewhat louder than traditional practice pads
What Are the Advantages of Drum Pads?
Electronic drum pads have been around since the 70s but have only recently picked up steam, thanks to the new and improved technology. Here are some of the benefits of drum pads we’d like to highlight for new musicians:
- No excess noise
- Built for small spaces
- Makes recording a breeze
- Can practice whenever you want
- Versatile built-in tools
No Excess Noise
Practically every drummer has had to deal with noise complaints from neighbors and even their own family members sometimes because, let’s face it, acoustic drums are loud. Practice pads, however, make it possible for drummers who don’t have a dedicated studio or space for jamming to work on their chops.
With electronic drums, you’ll have full control over the volume of your drums, enabling you to go as loud or as quiet as the situation demands. You can even use headphones with them to monitor your sound, meaning you can practice in the middle of the night without waking anyone up.
Built for Small Spaces
A standard drum kit takes about 20 square feet of floor space. You’ll also have to add a foot-wide skirting to the sides in order to move around the kit, and considering the total area needed for an average kit, it’s fairly large. Most drummers, especially those who are just starting out, may not have that kind of extra room in their bedroom or house.
Electronic drum sets, though, will take at most about 12.25 square feet of floor area. Acoustic drums depend on their size to create their sound, whereas electronic drums output electronically generated sound, therefore needing much less space.
Conversely, practice pads enable you to practice anywhere without any space restrictions. They can be mounted on a table or a stool while you are seated, then you’ll be all set to practice.
Makes Recording a Breeze
Professional drummers are well aware of the nuances of miking up an acoustic drum kit for recording purposes. It takes a ton of experience and knowledge to know which mic, drum head, or shell would work the best for the sound that you are going for. Let’s not forget about soundproofing and room ambiance, either, which are some of the biggest challenges of recording drums.
Electronic drums have changed the game altogether for both studio musicians and beginners by giving them the key to standard drum sounds and the ability to loop them. You can easily connect an electronic drum kit to your computer or sound mixer and start recording without any delay or feedback issues.
Practice Whenever You Want
Going on vacation? Parents calling you home for the holidays? With an electronic drum kit, you won’t miss playing drums, regardless of where you are. They’re easy to travel with and take minutes to set up, allowing you to work on your drum skills anytime and wherever you go.
A couple of soft cases will fit your entire electronic drum kit, making them much more travel-friendly than traditional drum sets. If you find that you travel quite often, then an electronic drum kit may be an intelligent choice for you.
Versatile Built-In Tools
Electronic drum kits come with a range of technological benefits that make your life easier as a drummer. From metronomes to built-in jacks for connecting external mp3 players, you have access to a bounty of amazing tools that’ll accentuate your playing and help you get the best out of your session.
Practicing becomes more enjoyable, and you’ll find yourself being more creative with electronic drum pads, which let you monitor your performance and provide feedback in real-time. You can upgrade your kit with arpeggiators and more soundbanks to get the most out of your setup.
What Are the Disadvantages of Drum Pads?
For the sake of anyone curious and beginners who are contemplating between buying an acoustic kit or an electronic kit, here are some of the downsides to using drum pads:
- They still take up some floor space. If you are looking to include monitors or an amplifier of some sort, then electronic drum kits may end up taking up more or less the same amount of floor space as acoustic kits.
- Electronic drum kits are not exactly silent. Rather, they’re merely much quieter than acoustic drums. Even when playing with headphones, the strikes (especially on the kick drum) would be fairly audible to a decent extent.
- They are definitely an investment. The price of a full electronic drum set can set you back a few thousand dollars, and you may be better off buying a decent acoustic kit with that kind of money.
- Getting a good sound is not as easy as it may seem to the untrained ears. Professional artists often multi-layer their drum tracks with many types of articulated samples to achieve that acoustic sound. There’s a huge learning curve behind using electronic drum pads, which all must go through to get the best out of their kit.
- There are certain limitations to what they can do. Some techniques such as rim-shots, cross-stick, and buzz-rolls can’t be performed on drum pads due to their sonic limitations.
- Playing on drum pads doesn’t feel very natural. They lack the friction and rebounce that most drummers who’ve played on acoustic drums are familiar with. The overall experience definitely lacks the enjoyment and surround sound of an acoustic kit.
Some Best Use Tips for Beginners
- Focus on noise reduction. For maximum sound isolation, use headphones or in-ear monitors with your electronic drum pads.
- Stay in tune. Did you know mesh drum pads allow you to tune the head? If you happen to own one, make sure to occasionally tune your drum heads to get an accurate picture of the sound while playing.
- Extend your kit. If you don’t have any noise restrictions, consider extending your kit with amplifiers and floor monitors to get a fuller sound from your kit.
- Timing is key. Use the metronome that came along with your electronic drum kit or keyboard sample pads. If you are using a practice pad, consider buying a separate metronome to make sure your sense of timing is improving along with your chops.
- Practice good form. Once you’ve got your kit set up, learning how to maintain the right posture will be as important as working on your playing, as it can make the difference between good and bad drumming. Always sit up straight, with the drum throne situated high enough so your knees make a right angle when placed on the kick pedal.
Our Top Recommendations
We recommend this product to all drummers looking for a flexible practice pad built to last. Understanding and adhering to click tracks is a huge part of every drummer’s life, so why not also include them in your practice sessions?
Your drumming skills will quickly pick up momentum and keep your journey action-packed throughout with the built-in rhythm coach. This practice pad features one of the best responding drum heads, great for both novice and seasoned drummers.
If you’re in need of sheer power and limitless sound possibilities, then the Roland SPD-SX should be your next choice of percussion pad. With over three hours of stereo and six hours of mono sampling capabilities, you’ll never run out of ideas when putting a creative session together.
Unlike the older models of percussion pads, there’s no delay between switching samples, and you can seamlessly integrate this device with other instruments for live performances. If you’re worried about the small internal memory size, go with the red version of the SPD-SX, which comes with an additional 16 Gb of internal memory.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Practice pads are a great choice for beginners who might get overwhelmed by the sheer monstrosity of an acoustic drum kit, both in terms of sound and size. These drum pads are made to imitate the feel and response of a real drum head, allowing new drummers to work on their exercises longer without fatiguing their ears.
Practice pads are the best when it comes to developing your muscle memory for drummers. Even professional drummers will carry practice drum pads with them at all times to keep their chops edgy and fresh.
Answer: Practice pads are great when it comes to learning the fundamentals of drumming for beginners. Training your ears and hands to strictly follow time signatures and rhythmic patterns take time and a lot of practice. Practice pads can help you get from Point A to Point B, but to cover the whole journey, you’ll have to try your hand out on a real kit eventually.
You also have to understand that practice pads and electronic pads are meant to imitate the sound of an acoustic drum kit. That means that when it comes to the real thing, you really don’t have a choice but to turn to real drums.
Answer; The choice for drum pads rightfully comes down to the goal you’re trying to achieve with them. If you already own an acoustic drum kit or have one at your school or studio, and you’re just looking to get some practice in your free time, then a practice drum pad is the answer for you.
If you care to have all your different drum sounds, effects, and assistant tools (like metronome and looper) while practicing, then go for an electronic drum kit. If you rather record your parts while practicing, you’ll get plenty of help with that while using it.
Your choice for drum pads can also differ based on the choice of material for the drum head too. Rubber pads have a rebound that closely resembles that of a real dream head, and they’re also considerably more affordable. Mesh heads, on the other hand, are about as responsive as an acoustic drum head but tend to be a little more expensive.
Answer; Yes, in this competitive age, it’s better to stay in good shape at all times, and everywhere you go. Practice pads will help you make beats on the fly, as well as practice your routine before a gig. They are especially great for beginners who are yet to form a set schedule for their practice sessions and lessons.
Answer: Each pad on an electronic drum kit is equipped with a sensor that generates an electrical signal when struck. This signal is passed through cables to a digital module like a synthesizer, which then produces sound based on your settings. Depending on the complexity of sensors, you may or may not have the option to control the velocity and volume of your strikes.
Electronic drum pads are a solid choice for people who are looking to drum at home but don’t yet have the required space and budget for an acoustic kit. High-end drum kits come with an array of versatile tools which can progressively improve your playing over time.
Our Final Thoughts
As a drummer, you want to be sure to work with instruments that feel comfortable and accentuate your playing style, which means that compromise is really not an option here. Every product on our list has a ton of glowing reviews, making them some of the strongest contenders in the market right now.
If we had to choose just one drum pad, though, then the Roland SPD-SX is our clear winner, as it has everything that most modern musicians need to have in their arsenal of sounds. The other models on this list certainly have their own upsides, but Roland takes the winner’s trophy here.
However, no matter what drum pad you choose, we hope this list has helped narrow it down for you — and maybe the next gig you play won’t be in your garage but instead in front of millions of fans in a live arena!
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